Remarks at the Biennial Convention of the National Federation of Republican Women in Louisville, Kentucky

October 7, 1983

I've found out in this job there are some days better than others. [Laughter] And I told an interviewer yesterday, with regard to '84, that I believe the people tell you whether you should or not. So, I shall remember what you have said.

Betty Rendel, Betty Heitman, [President of the National Federation of Republican Women and Cochairman of the Republican National Committee, respectively] and all those who are here, members of our Cabinet -- Secretary Dole and Secretary Heckler -- three Congresswomen -- Bobbi Fiedler, Lynn Martin, and Claudine Schneider -- Director of the Peace Corps, Loret Ruppe, and we have two Cabinet wives here, Mrs. Midge Baldrige and Mrs. Sue Block, and all of you, I'm delighted to be with you, members of America's largest political organization. You are not just the pride and joy, you are the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Your work and dedication and that of all your members who aren't here today have resulted in the election of thousands of Republicans all across this country -- people who have carried our ideas and principles at the Federal, State, and local levels. Thanks to your energy and talent, you've often been called the foot soldiers of our party. But that description is becoming outdated. You've got a good share of generals in your ranks -- [laughter] -- and that share is growing.

We Republicans have always been in the forefront of supporting women's rights and encouraging their participation in all shades of society. It began with our backing of women's suffrage, and it continues today with many able women serving in public and political office.

Republicans have a good, proud history of electing women to public office. I've said it before, and I'm proud to say it again: The Republican Party was the first to elect a woman to the United States Congress. We are the only party to elect women to the United States Senate who were not first filling unexpired terms. And we shouldn't let anyone forget that the only two women in the United States Senate, Nancy Kassebaum and Paula Hawkins, are Republicans. And we've got nine great Republican women in the House, and as I've said, three of them are here with us today. Let me just ask them, ``Wouldn't you like a little more company?''

I believe we should set a new goal for ourselves. Let us at least double the number of Republican women in the House and Senate, and let's do it in 1984. And, Claudine Schneider, I hope you're listening, because I'd like to think that one of those new Senators will be you.

I want you to know that back in Washington we're appointing top-quality people to responsible positions throughout the Government. And because we're looking for the best, we've appointed many women to key jobs -- women like our United Nations Ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick; women who come from among your ranks, like Elizabeth Dole, our Secretary of Transportation, Margaret Heckler, our Secretary of Health and Human Services, and another member of whom we're all extremely proud, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. And on some 5-to-4 decisions since she arrived there, how I have thanked heaven that she is there.

They are the stars. But throughout the administration, women are involved in making the serious decisions that are shaping America's destiny. I'm glad your convention is focusing on the crucial issue that is facing America in the 1980's -- the economy. America's society has changed dramatically during the last decade, and American women have been a major force behind those changes. Fifty-three percent of you are working outside the home, up from 38 percent just 20 years ago. And that's one reason why the key to your, or anybody else's, progress is a strong, growing economy. And believe me, our goal is not just economic recovery. We seek to build a new era of lasting economic expansion filled with opportunities for all our people that will be a dramatic improvement from what we inherited.

In 1981 we were faced with an economic crisis that was destroying opportunity. Back-to-back years of double-digit inflation had undermined every American family's financial security. Families living on a fixed income of $10,000 at the start of 1979 saw the purchasing power of that income drop to less than $8,000 by the end of 1980. Yet, our opponents preach to us like apostles of fairness. Well, maybe they are fair in at least one way: Their policies don't discriminate; they bring misery to everybody. [Laughter]

Let us remind our fellow Americans what our opponents want everyone to forget: They had their chance, and they failed. For 4 straight years they exercised total control over the Federal Government. They controlled both Houses of the Congress, the White House, and every department, bureau, and agency.

We must have the courage to speak out and to challenge their credibility. Those who saddled America with double-digit inflation, record interest rates, huge tax increases, too much regulation, credit controls, farm embargoes, and phony excuses about malaise are the last people who should be giving sermonettes about fairness and compassion.

We're doing things a little differently. We're providing true fairness by increasing real wages for the first time in 3 years. We've reduced inflation to 2.6 percent over the last 12 months. Sometimes people buying their groceries and other items don't realize how much inflation is down, because the prices are still going up. The difference is they're not going up much -- or they are going up much more slowly than before. For example, if food prices had continued rising the last 2 years at the same rate as in the 2 years before we took office, a loaf of bread would cost 7 cents more today; a half gallon of milk would cost 18 cents more; a pound of hamburger would cost 60 cents more; and a gallon of gas would cost 97 cents more. But I'm not going to be satisfied -- and I don't think you are -- until inflation is zero. And that's where we're going to get it.

In 1980 the prime interest rate hit 21\1/2\ percent, the highest level in more than 100 years. Now it's about half what it was. The cost of doing business, mortgage, education, and car loans have come down. Parents, students, entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers -- all are benefiting. And if the Congress would just act responsibly, we can knock those interest rates down even more.

On another front, we've cut 300 million hours of Federal paperwork. This will save consumers, business, and State and local officials billions of dollars. It's taken time, but virtually every sector of the economy -- from housing to the auto industry to high technology -- is expanding, creating greater opportunities and new hope for a better and more secure future. The gross national product, the GNP, is growing faster than even we expected -- growing by a whopping 9.7 percent in the second quarter of this year and an estimated 7 percent for the next quarter.

But you know that the best clue that our program is working is our critics don't call it Reaganomics anymore. [Laughter]

Unemployment, which, tragically, is often the last indicator to turn around in a recovery, is on a downward path. Just this morning we received the more welcome news; at 8:30 they released the statistics. Total unemployment in September dropped to 9.1 percent. As you'll remember, in August it dropped the biggest single monthly drop in 24 years. The number of people holding jobs in September increased by 382,000 to a total number of people working in this country of 101.9 million and that is an all-time high in the history of the United States.

Now you might be interested to know that the unemployment rate for adult women dropped from 8 to 7.8 percent. More women are working now than ever before we took office -- since before we took office over 2.3 million more are working. Your opportunities are expanding, and your jobs are better. Women filled more than half of all the new jobs in managerial, professional, and technical fields between 1980 and 1982. The number of women-owned businesses is growing five times faster than it is among men.

The trouble is some people just won't open their eyes. Our opponents refuse to see any progress. They refuse to admit that America is getting well, refuse to recognize the recovery that is getting stronger all the time. These critics seem prepared to drown recovery in pessimism. Their specialty isn't solutions, it's scare tactics about deficits. Well, make no mistake, no one should minimize the danger of those budget deficits. But I feel compelled to ask an unpleasant question: Aren't these the same people who left us with government spending soaring at 17.4-percent annual rate in 1980, the same people who opposed every effort of ours to slow the rate of increase in government spending? Where have these born-again budget balancers been? [Laughter]

I'll tell you where they've been. They've been using every trick in the book to sabotage what the American people truly want -- a balanced Federal budget.

Now one of the ways to get there is by a constitutional amendment. Now, I recognize that that idea would not be a cure-all; it wouldn't even go into effect right away. But in the interim period, the Congress and the President would have to sit down together to agree on a budget of real discipline and one that would not penalize those dependent on government for help.

Now I still believe this idea is right for America. Our goal was and remains to bring the Federal budget into balance by bringing spending down in line with revenues. And this is the only true course toward fiscal sanity.

Barely a year ago, 236 responsible Republicans and Democrats, a clear majority in the House, joined us in an historic attempt to pass that constitutional amendment. But that amendment required a two-thirds majority. Incredibly, the liberal House leadership -- the same people who now take the well of the House each morning to decry deficits -- claimed, believe it or not, that a balanced budget would wreck our economy. That's a little like saying that good exercise, three square meals a day, and plenty of sleep at night will destroy your health. [Laughter]

This upside-down logic is at the core of their so-called deficit solutions. Well, hold on to your seatbelts, because I warn you, the day the liberal leadership regains control of the government -- if it ever does -- Americans are on their way to being taxed into the poorhouse.

Several months ago we had to beat back their plan to raise taxes by $315 billion over the next 5 years. Nor did they have any intention to spend less, not on your life. Along with the tax increase they planned a $181 billion increase in domestic spending. Just imagine how quickly this would have decimated savings and investment, sunk the recovery, and raised unemployment -- all of which would have made the deficit much bigger, not smaller.

The unfair Democratic tax increases would have cost a typical median-income family $3,550 over 5 years. Now, how does such punishment help parents, students, entrepreneurs, and working people to get ahead? How do you help an economy grow by draining away its life, energy, and spirit?

Our idea of fairness is not tax increases, it's tax reductions and indexing. Our tax cut is already saving the average working family $700 a year. Our idea of opportunity is not to destroy hope, but to work with responsible Republicans and Democrats to reward initiative and help all Americans achieve economic equality. We've been doing it by reducing the marriage tax penalty, increasing the maximum child care credit -- almost doubling it -- increasing the limits for IRA and Keogh contributions, and by virtually eliminating estate taxes on family farms and businesses for a surviving spouse. Now, this is real progress for America.

The liberal thesis -- that we can whack the deficit by soaking the rich and cutting defense spending -- is just plain wrong. Let's take the case of taxpayers earning $75,000 a year or more, and let's presume that we'll not only raise their taxes, we'll confiscate every single penny they earn above $75,000. This would be a marginal tax rate of 100 percent.

Question: How much money would we raise? Answer: Approximately $33 billion, enough to run the government for 14 days and cover about 18 percent of the deficit, less than one-fifth of the deficit. Well, sorry, that won't quite do it. And remember, the government would only confiscate that $33 billion one time. Raising taxes sets off an alarm. It tells people don't take risks, don't invest more, don't produce or save, because government is waiting to take it away from you next year. Thirty-three billion would not be there to tax and the deficit would grow.

Now, what was their other idea for reducing the deficit? Oh, yes, cut military spending and, as a few urge, cut it to the bone. After their proposed tax increase the deficit, according to their estimate, would still be around $150 billion. Now remember we have already reduced our planned defense increase by $66 billion. We did that ourselves. Forget that defense spending as a share of the Federal budget is nearly 40 percent less today than it was under John F. Kennedy 20 years ago. Forget that the Russians have been out-investing us in defense by about 2 to 1. We have a deficit left of about $150 billion, which our opponents say can be eliminated by reduced defense spending. So, let's start by eliminating -- for an entire year -- spending on the Pershing missile, the B - 1 bomber, the MX missile, the cruise missile, the Trident submarine and its missiles, the M - 1 tank, and then cancel the orders for all the ammunition for all our weapons, including even the bullets for our soldiers' rifles. And that will reduce the deficit of $150 billion by $13.2 billion in 1984.

What else would they have us do -- ask the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen to work free and give up eating? The path to lower deficits is not paved with tax increases and unilateral disarmament. We will reduce deficits by encouraging growth and handcuffing the big spenders. Yes, the President is a Republican, and there's much talk in Democratic circles that the budget and the deficit are the President's; they come full-blown from the White House. But the Constitution doesn't give the President power to appropriate or spend money. That power belongs only to the Congress, and the Congress has only been Republican in both Houses for 4 of the last 50 years.

When we protested over those years the size of the growing debt, how many remember they told us the debt didn't mean anything because we owed it to ourselves? Indeed, we can recall them saying that deficit spending and its accompanying inflation were essential to continued prosperity. Now, that can only be called hypocrisy. These people who sabotaged the balanced budget amendment, who resisted tooth and nail our efforts to break runaway spending, are now delivering daily broadsides against deficits, even as they cook up a whole host of new spending bills. Look at only a portion of their spending wish-list, and you will be staggered. Sixteen House Democratic proposals alone would raise the deficit by almost $50 billion in fiscal year 1984 and by a whopping $192 billion over the next 5 years. It is their profligacy, not our economic recovery program, that is the source of Federal red ink.

I will not hesitate to veto their tax increases, and I must and will veto their budget-busting bills as fast as they reach my desk. And on my desk is a letter signed by 146 Congressmen, the overwhelming majority Republicans, pledging to me that they -- that's the number required -- will uphold my vetoes when I sign them.

Let us urge the American people to keep working at the grassroots for a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget. If you want to make it happen, it will happen. We'll continue the lonely battle to restrain spending. One tool I used in my California days, and which I've always been attracted to, is the line-item veto. Presidents don't have it. About 30 Governors do, and it works every time you use it.

Let's also keep our eyes on something encouraging: The deficit is coming down. The deficit is falling because of new economic growth. Even with lower tax rates, revenues are coming in strong, because those lower tax rates stimulated the economic recovery.

Economic growth is making life better for everyone, and that's the Republican blueprint for the future. The Republican message is dream the big dreams. With freedom and opportunity, there's no limit to what we can accomplish as individuals and as a nation. But let us also remember we cannot prosper unless we are secure, and we cannot be secure unless we're free. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, their chemical poisoning of innocent civilians, their brutal occupation and subversion of one country after another, and their recent attack against 269 innocent civilians aboard KAL Flight 007 are all important reminders: We live in a dangerous world, with cruel people who reject our ideals and who disregard individual rights and the value of human life.

It is my duty as President, and all of our duties as citizens, to keep this nation's defenses second to none, so that America can remain strong -- [applause]. Thank you. God bless you all. America is going to remain strong, free, and at peace; I know that now.

I told you a little while ago, some days are better than others. There are days, also, in which things happen. I just have to tell you this little incident. I have received some letters from the families of some of those who were on that Korean airliner. And the other day I received one from a mother whose 28-year-old daughter was on that plane. She had lost her husband the year before through a terrible illness. She had two small children. And now this mother, as grandmother, had to tell those two small children their mother was dead. And she told me how the little 6-year-old boy turned without a word and then a short time later came back and handed her a drawing he'd made of a little boy crying and said, ``That's how I feel.'' I sometimes think if it would do any good, I'd like to send a lot of those letters to Mr. Andropov.

Peace through strength is our goal. We're undertaking the most sweeping proposals for mutual and verifiable arms reductions since nuclear weapons became a threat. In strategic nuclear forces and in measures to build confidence and trust, in intermediate-range nuclear forces and in conventional forces, we want to lessen the danger to ourselves and our children. We remain flexible in our bargaining, but as Commander in Chief, I have an obligation to protect this country, and I will not let political expediency influence these crucial negotiations.

I believe with all my heart that America is more prosperous, safe, and secure today than it was 3 years ago. One word sums up the difference between 1983 and 1980: Hope. You can see hope being reborn. You can see confidence rising. You can feel a new spirit of optimism spreading across our land. America is surging forward again. We're meeting the challenge of improving our schools, a challenge neglected for too many years. And some day soon, we'll even welcome God back into America's classrooms. [Applause]

If I remember anything from my previous occupation, I should quit now. [Laughter]

We will explore deeper in space, cross new frontiers of high technology, make new medical breakthroughs, and we'll be doing it for the benefit of our children and our children's children. We've made a new beginning -- a dramatic and far-reaching step toward a much better future.

And I urge you: Take our message to the people. Remind them where we were, what we've done, and how far together we can still go. You've always been our greatest strength. You've made the difference before; you can do it now. With your talent, your drive, your brains, and your heart, we can out-organize and out-do anyone. And if enough of you run for public office, if enough of you continue to work as you always have, American women will make history again. You'll make 1984 the year of the Republican renaissance. And all I can say to all of you is God bless you all, and God bless America.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. at the Commonwealth Convention Center. He was introduced by Betty Rendel, president of the federation.